The proliferation of investment treaties over the past several decades has been accompanied by a steep uptick in investment treaty cases. According to one source, over 817 investment treaty cases have been commenced since the early days of the investor state dispute system (ISDS). One-third of those cases are currently pending. ICSID alone registered 53 new cases in 2017. Suffice it to say, ISDS has been growing at a rapid pace. As one commentator has pointed out:
During the first 30 years of its existence, ICSID was somewhat of a “Sleeping Beauty,” with an average of one or two cases being registered each year. It is with the widespread development of bilateral and multilateral investment treaties that the activities of ICSID have awakened.
The above comparison, made circa 2001, is now as fitting as ever.
Alongside this tremendous growth, the ISDS has also experienced some growing pains. One issue that has received significant attention over the past 10 years is the propriety of parallel proceedings. Broadly speaking, parallel proceedings occur where similar disputes are brought in several fora for resolution “in parallel.” There typically will be some difference between the proceedings -- either in the identity of the parties, the nature of the claim, or the relief sought. However, the involvement of the same economic interests may give rise, in some instances, to a concern that parallel proceedings may have a negative impact on the entire ISDS, as they may lead to increased costs, inconsistent results or even double recovery.